TANEGASHIMA, Kagoshima Pref. — An H-IIB rocket blasted off Saturday from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture and released the unmanned Konotori cargo transport on a weeklong journey to the International Space Station.
The Konotori, loaded with 4.6 tons of supplies, including food, clothing and experiment-related equipment, separated from the rocket about 15 minutes after launch and will approach the ISS on Friday, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said.
The cargo vehicle, the third sent into space by JAXA, will be captured by the ISS robotic arm.
The current ISS crew includes Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, who arrived Tuesday aboard a Russian spacecraft.
The H-IIB rocket lifted off at 11:06 a.m. as scheduled
Four more Konotori transports are planned for launch by 2016. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., the joint developer of the H-IIB, will take over operations for the remaining Konotori launches from JAXA.
Bringing down the launch cost will be an important task for the engineering company to make the cargo vehicle price-competitive with similar vehicles from the United States, Russia and the European Space Agency.
The latest rocket launch cost about ¥14.7 billion, including ¥14 billion for the transporter.
The cargo transport is also carrying five small satellites to be put into orbit from the Japanese laboratory module on the ISS.
Another piece of equipment is a device that will record images of the transport’s re-entry into the atmosphere and collect data on how it burns up. It is hoped the information will be useful for a future manned space program and other purposes.
The Konotori is slated for separation from the ISS on Sept. 7.